Taroudant: an alternative to Marrakech
By Martha Hales
As soon as you catch sight of Taroudant’s ring of ancient golden stone walls you can sense this is a special place. The air of faded grandeur hints at its past glories when it was the capital of Morocco for a short time in the 16th century. Today the elegance lingers in this ancient town, in the principal streets and squares of its medina, and its grand fortifications complete with imposing gateways at regular intervals. Taroudant is often called the ‘mini Marrakech’ - and it certainly has the same enticing atmosphere, but it is a far more ‘off the beaten track’ destination. Enjoy the authentic, bustling souks and encounter the friendly locals without being hassled as you may be in the more popular areas of Marrakech. There is a laid back charm to this Berber market town which for centuries has been the hub of the Souss valley and a key trading post for the crops grown in the fertile valley plains all around. Read on to find out our top five things to do in Taroudant.
1. Follow the walls
Taroudant is entirely surrounded by tall crenellated walls of honeyed stone which have stood for centuries to repel outsiders with conquest on their minds. The walls encircle the entire medina, or old town, and for much of their seven kilometre length remain more or less intact. Although it isn’t possible to walk on the top of the ramparts apart from at the Bab el Kasbah gate, you can follow the walls on foot, by bike or perhaps even by horse drawn carriage (calèche) for their entire circumference - best at sunset when the low light makes the stone glow beautifully.
2. Palais Claudio Bravo
Not too far from Taroudant’s walled heart, a fifteen minute taxi ride north, you will find the stunning estate of Chilean painter Claudio Bravo. This sumptuous house and grounds is a hotel - museum hybrid, with a handful of truly lovely rooms, inviting pools and glorious grounds to enjoy. For art enthusiasts the museum holds Bravo’s impressive collection of works, both by his own hand and by several other accomplished artists including Picasso, and guided tours offer a fantastic insight into the life and work of Claudio Bravo as well as the other sculptures, ceramics and artefacts on display. If you do not wish to stay here you can simply visit for the day, perhaps rounding off your exploration of the palace and grounds with a pastry and a coffee at the pavilion cafe.
3. Browse the markets and souks
The two daily souks in Taroudant are both located inside the walled medina to the north and south of the Place en Nasr. The Berber souk is a truly local souk providing for the daily requirements of the people of Taroudant, with stalls selling spices, homewares, fresh produce, clothing and textiles, plus carpets. For an impressive selection of local handicrafts particularly jewellery from the nearby Anti Atlas villages, leather goods such as belts, slippers, bags and shoes, and fine carpets head for the Arab souk. You can also buy leather goods from the tanneries just outside Bab Targhount gateway - if you can stomach the smell! Every Thursday Taroudant hosts a produce market a short distance outside Bab el Khemis, where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables and sometimes handicrafts direct from the villagers who come into town to buy and sell.
4. Trekking trails
Taroudant’s location at the foot of the Atlas Mountains makes it an ideal base for some hiking in the surrounding unspoilt landscapes. There is great variety here, from the patchwork of farmland which characterises the Souss valley to the remote crags and oases further afield. One well known trek in the region is the Paradise Valley trek, which requires around a 90 minute journey from Taroudant to reach the start point, from where the trail drops into the gorge and follows the stream in the bottom where the greenery allows for shade and the scenery is wonderful. This is a good walk for birders as sightings of kingfishers and Bonelli’s Eagle are fairly frequent. The Mentaga valley is another stunning spot for a walk, with inviting pools for a dip in the gorge section, as well as villages and oases to discover. For longer, multi-day treks around the High Atlas there are plenty of opportunities which our local experts can help you plan.
5. Place al Alaouyine
The bustling hub of Taroudant’s ancient medina is the busy and agreeable Place al Alaouyine, which is a sleepy plaza by day, but starts to fill up in the late afternoon as the heat of the day subsides and the townspeople come to socialise and take the air. The groups of chaps clustered under the trees in the morning and evening are tradesmen, and locals in the know can tell you which tree hosts plumbers, electricians and so on. Once the sun begins to sink on weekends and holidays the square begins to fill with entertainers - acrobats, storytellers, musicians, herbalists, snake charmers and the like - one of the major similarities with Marrakech although on a smaller and less overwhelming scale.
Make it happen
Make the most of Taroudant’s friendly and authentic vibe when you spend a couple of days getting to know this picturesque town. It’s a short drive from Agadir and makes a good stop if you are travelling to or from the coast, and as well as enjoying the town itself its a great jumping off point for hikes in the Anti Atlas mountains. Let our local experts take the strain out of planning your trip to Taroudant when you send them a few details so they can suggest an itinerary as a starting point. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.